Business Dictionary defines Leadership as "the activity of leading a group of people or an organization or the ability to do this" or "the act of inspiring subordinants to perform and engage in achieving a goal." Leadership involves establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realize that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders. A leader steps up in times of crisis, and is able to think and act creatively in difficult situations. Unlike management, leadership cannot be taught, although it may be learned and enhanced through coaching or mentoring. [1]

Leadership is both a research area (US vs. European approaches) and a practical skill encompassing the ability of an individual or organization to "lead" or guide other individuals, teams, or entire organizations. US academic environments define leadership as "a process of social influence in which a person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task" Leadership seen from a European and non-academic perspective encompasses a view of a leader who can be moved not only by communitarian goals but also by the search for personal power.[2]

source: Javed Taghavi

Leadership is one of social science’s most examined phenomena. The scrutiny afforded to leadership is not surprising, given that it is a universal activity evident in humankind and in animal species (Bass, 2008). Reference to leadership is apparent throughout classical Western and Eastern writings with a widespread belief that leadership is vital for effective organizational and societal functioning. Nonetheless, leadership is often easy to identify in practice but it is difficult to define precisely. Given the complex nature of leadership, a specific and widely accepted definition of leadership does not exist and might never be found. Fred Fiedler (1971), for example, noted: “There are almost as many definitions of leadership as there are leadership theories—and there are almost as many theories of leadership as there are psychologists working in the field”. Even in this absence of universal agreement, a broad definition of leadership is required before introducing the construct as a domain of scholarly inquiry. Most leadership scholars would likely agree, at least in principle, that leadership can be defined in terms of
(a) an influencing process — and its resultant outcomes — that occurs between a leader and followers and
(b) how this influencing process is explained by the leader’s dispositional characteristics and behaviors, follower perceptions and attributions of the leader, and the context in which the influencing process occurs.
Although this is a multifaceted definition that is heavily “leader centric” in describing mainly one-way effects associated with the personal characteristics of a leader; however, it also includes aspects of the interaction between leader and follower (in terms of perceptions and attributions) as well as a definition of leadership as an effect with regard to the resulting outcomes (e.g., goal achievement). Leadership is rooted in a context, which may affect the type of leadership that emerges and whether it will be effective (Liden & Antonakis, 2009). A broad definition of leadership thus incorporates the most commonly used definitional features: the leader as person (dispositional characteristics), leader behavior, the effects of a leader, the interaction process between a leader and follower(s), and the importance of context (Bass, 2008).[3]

Three Historical Leadership Types[4]

A. Leader-Centric.

  • Kings and Queens.
  • Born Leaders.
  • Men were primary in control of government, business, and family units.
  • Citizens simply followed directions caused segregation of social classes

B. Follower-Centric.

  • Because of technology, more workers were needed.
  • Followers wanted to regain control.
  • By late 1800s, ideas to increase worker productivity and boost revenue.
  • Leaders discovered that increasing the responsibility of workers did in fact increase productivity.
  • 1920s-when supervisors gave personal attention to workers, satisfaction increased.
  • However, unwilling to give up total control and give power to their followers.

C. Situational-Centric.

  • By the 1970s, a growing workforce were turning leadership over to groups, committees, and key employees.
  • Focus on flexibility and recognized that leadership can be seen and described with many different models in mind.
  • Not always one best way to lead all the time.

Characteristics of Effective Leadership[5]

  • Effective leadership includes strong character. Leaders exhibit honesty, integrity, trustworthiness and ethics. Leaders act in line with how they speak, and earn the right to be responsible for others’ success in the company.
  • Strong leadership involves clear communication skills. Leaders speak with and listen to staff members, respond to questions and concerns, and are empathetic. Leaders use effective communication skills for moving the company forward and achieving new levels of success.
  • True leadership sees where the company is headed and plans the steps needed to get there. Visualizing what is possible, following trends in the industry, and taking risks to grow the business are all required of leaders.
  • Productive leadership shows optimism and provides positive energy for staff. Leaders are helpful by nature and truly concerned about others’ well-being. Leaders find answers to challenges and are the first to reassure and inspire workers when things do not go according to plan. Leaders find ways for staff to work together and achieve maximum results in an efficient and effective manner.

Elements of Leadership[6]

  • Creating an Inspiring Vision of the Future: In business, a vision is a realistic, convincing and attractive depiction of where you want to be in the future. Vision provides direction, sets priorities, and provides a marker, so that you can tell that you've achieved what you wanted to achieve.
  • Motivating and Inspiring People: A compelling vision provides the foundation for leadership. But it's leaders' ability to motivate and inspire people that helps them deliver that vision.
  • Managing Delivery of the Vision: This is the area of leadership that relates to management. Leaders must ensure that the work needed to deliver the vision is properly managed – either by themselves, or by a dedicated manager or team of managers to whom the leader delegates this responsibility – and they need to ensure that their vision is delivered successfully.
  • Coaching and Building a Team to Achieve the Vision: Individual and team development are important activities carried out by transformational leaders. To develop a team, leaders must first understand team dynamics. A leader will then ensure that team members have the necessary skills and abilities to do their job and achieve the vision. Leadership also includes looking for leadership potential in others. By developing leadership skills within his/her team, a leader creates an environment of success in the long term. And that's a true measure of great leadership.

Leadership and Emotions[7]
Leadership can be perceived as a particularly emotion-laden process, with emotions entwined with the social influence process. In an organization, the leader's mood has some effects on his/her group. These effects can be described in three levels:

  • The mood of individual group members. Group members with leaders in a positive mood experience more positive mood than do group members with leaders in a negative mood. The leaders transmit their moods to other group members through the mechanism of emotional contagion. Mood contagion may be one of the psychological mechanisms by which charismatic leaders influence followers.
  • The affective tone of the group. Group affective tone represents the consistent or homogeneous affective reactions within a group. Group affective tone is an aggregate of the moods of the individual members of the group and refers to mood at the group level of analysis. Groups with leaders in a positive mood have a more positive affective tone than do groups with leaders in a negative mood.
  • Group processes like coordination, effort expenditure, and task strategy. Public expressions of mood impact how group members think and act. When people experience and express mood, they send signals to others. Leaders signal their goals, intentions, and attitudes through their expressions of moods. For example, expressions of positive moods by leaders signal that leaders deem progress toward goals to be good. The group members respond to those signals cognitively and behaviorally in ways that are reflected in the group processes.

In research about client service, it was found that expressions of positive mood by the leader improve the performance of the group, although in other sectors there were other findings. Beyond the leader's mood, her/his behavior is a source for employee positive and negative emotions at work. The leader creates situations and events that lead to emotional response. Certain leader behaviors displayed during interactions with their employees are the sources of these affective events. Leaders shape workplace affective events. Examples – feedback giving, allocating tasks, resource distribution. Since employee behavior and productivity are directly affected by their emotional states, it is imperative to consider employee emotional responses to organizational leaders. Emotional intelligence, the ability to understand and manage moods and emotions in the self and others, contributes to effective leadership within organizations.

Business Leadership and the Bottom Line[8]
In business, leadership is welded to performance and any leadership definition has to take that into account. While it's not solely about profit, those who are viewed as effective leaders are those who increase their company's bottom lines - to the point that people with leadership titles and responsibilities are often turfed out if their efforts don't meet the expectations of profit set by their boards, higher management or shareholders. To further confuse the definition of leadership, we tend to use the terms "leadership" and "management" interchangeably, referring to a company's management structure as its leadership, or to individuals who are actually managers as the "leaders" of various management teams.

Leadership vs. Management[9]
Leadership and management are different but complementary skills. Leadership revolves around influence, motivation, drive, and other unquantifiable skills. Here are nine traits many great leaders possess:

  • Awareness: The ability to maintain an objective perspective
  • Decisiveness: Spot problems and make difficult decisions
  • Empathy: Express praise in public and address problems in private, with a true concern for the follower
  • Accountability: Take responsibility for everything in their organization, as well as everyone and every decision
  • Confidence: The confidence to follow their plans and get buy-in from others, but a willingness to revisit a decision if it is not successful
  • Optimism: Understand the power of positive behavior and influence their followers to be positive as well
  • Honesty: Moral, ethical, and believe in the Golden Rule
  • Focus: Focus on the end game and continuous improvement on the way there
  • Inspiration: Communicate clearly and effectively and find ways to motivate the members of their team or organization
  • Basic tasks performed by managers

In contrast, here are five basic tasks that managers perform as described by management consultant and author Peter Drucker:

  • Sets objectives: Define goals and lay out the work that needs to be done
  • Organizes: Divide tasks into manageable pieces and select the team to do the work
  • Motivates and communicates: Make decisions about pay, placement, and promotion by communicating with the team
  • Measures: Define target goals, and analyze, interpret, and appraise performance
  • Develops people: Determines what knowledge and education each person needs to add to get the job done

Effective leadership can increase an organization’s success and improve the productivity of workers. If done poorly, management can be make life difficult and stressful for workers and harm organizations.

See Also

Transactional Leadership
Autocratic Leadership
Democratic Leadership
Strategic Leadership
Team Leadership
Cross-Cultural Leadership
Facilitative Leadership
Laissez-faire Leadership
Transformational Leadership
Coaching Leadership
Charismatic Leadership
Visionary Leadership


  1. Definition of Leadership Business Dictionary
  2. Academic Definition of Leadership Javed Taghavi
  3. What is Leadership? David V. Day, John Antonakis
  4. What are the three historical types of leadership? Utah Valley University
  5. What are the Characteristics of Effective Leadership? Investopedia
  6. Elements of Leadership Skills Mind Tools
  7. Leadership and Emotions Wikipedia
  8. Is Business Leadership Solely About Improving the Bottom Line? the balance
  9. How do leadership and management differ? St. Thomas University Online